Questions Dads Ask when Considering Divorce

Helping fathers care for their children--even as they consider divorce.

“Daddy! Did you bring me something?” Robbie shouted excitedly as he leaped into Jeff’s arms. Jeff hugged Robbie tightly as he pulled the toy truck from his pocket. “I made something for you today, too!” Robbie exclaimed, “But, I’m saving it for Father’s Day.” Jeff smiled outwardly but his stomach clenched. What would divorcing do to Robbie? What kind of father was he to even think about this? He was stuck in all the questions dads ask when considering divorce.

Should we stay together “for the kids”?

Often, people put off divorcing believing a bad marriage is far better for children than divorce. James Guttman, in his article “Divorced Dad on ‘Staying Together for the Kids,’” details his sense that he would betray his children if he divorced their mom.

Guttman believed “broken homes made broken people.” He notes he and his wife didn’t scream, yell, or say bad things about each other—they simply lived separate lives. Slowly, he came to the conclusion that everyone “simply getting their mail at the same address [wasn’t] enough to keep the kids healthy and happy.”

Guttman asked himself the same question we urge our clients to ask when wrestling with whether to divorce—“Do you want your children to have the marriage you have?”

Because children generally become what they live, they tend to form marriages like their parents’ marriage. As you wrestle with whether to stay, ask, “Do I want my children to have this marriage?”

If the answer is “No”—there are two paths.

1) Find a way to make your marriage close to what you want your children to have.

  • Do the hard work of changing habits that undermine your relationship.
  • Focus on shared values, goals, and priorities.
  • Work with your spouse to preserve and build up this core in your relationship.


2) Recognize that, as hard as each of you has tried, you can’t get there.

Often this comes from broken trust. A break that just cannot be repaired. Living in this kind of bad marriage harms children in many of the same ways as divorce.

Children’s security comes from their parents’ relationship. Bad marriages undermine this security in the same way as bad divorces–with many of the same outcomes for children. But, good co-parenting relationships restore this security.

When Guttman recognized the marriage wasn’t providing the life he wanted for his children—he opted to work with his ex-wife to provide two homes filled with peace, security, and love. He notes this choice made him a better father than staying in a marriage he couldn’t make work.

How do I protect my parenting time?

Fathers, for good reason, often feel they get the short end of the stick on parenting time. Historically, the pendulum has swung between preference for fathers or mothers—cutting the other parent out of time (and relationship) with their children. Fathers were most recently on the losing end of the pendulum.

Fortunately, courts now recognize the pivotal role each parent plays in their children’s lives. They often seek to preserve key time for both parents. But, this doesn’t stop attorneys from fighting for their client to “win” in the parenting realm.

With this in mind, fathers may best protect their relationship with their children by seeking cooperative mediation over the adversarial process.

Some friends or online “experts” may recommend, “First, get a good lawyer.” But, that step may lead to the kinds of legal battles that destroy any chance of working with your spouse to create a positive, co-parenting relationship.

The typical adversarial process pits you against your spouse. Mediation offers the opportunity for the two of you to work together to create a plan to best care for your children.

This ability to work together protects time for both of you. More, cooperative co-parenting is the number one factor for mitigating the trauma of divorce for children. Instead, parents work together to provide a foundation for secure, happy children.

How do I care for my children on my own?

Many fathers have been hands-on from day one of their child’s life. Others feel completely unprepared for parenting on their own. No matter where you fall, attend to the following, and your children will thrive.

  • Support children as they grieve. You likely grieve the loss of your marriage. Your children will grieve the loss of the family they know, their identity, and even their home/community. As children move through the stages of denial, anger, sadness, and bargaining to get to acceptance—be there. Hold them as they cry. Give them time to process anger. Provide answers to their bargaining questions—without blaming their other parent. Help them see how their two parents will continue to care and provide for them.
  • Be a parent during parenting time—no matter how long it lasts. For Dads with lesser time, there is the temptation to be the “fun guy.” For Dads with more time, the focus on “getting it all done” can create drudgery for everyone. Children need fathers to provide consistent schedules, help them live up to responsibilities (i.e. checking/helping with homework and chores), be their sounding board, and provide some fun along the way. For Dads new to the hands-on aspect of parenting, parenting educators can hugely assist by providing developmentally appropriate information on activities, schedules, methods of discipline, and other elements of parenting.
  • Hold off on dating. Children need their parents’ full focus after divorce. Juggling single parenting, house, and job stretches most parents thin. So, while friends may urge you to “get back out there,” holding off can be the best gift you give your children. As they adjust to two homes, changing schedules, new routines, and changing relationships between their parents—the last thing they need is to compete for your (limited) time and attention. Reserve your prime energy and attention for them.

Father’s Day can be bittersweet for dads considering or going through divorce. So, do your best to make your marriage like the one you want them to have. If you and your spouse just can’t get there—do your best to create two good homes for your children. As you do this, you are being a good dad. Father’s Day will still be a day to celebrate all you are to your kiddos.

If you would like more information on co-parenting or other issues in divorce, please contact Resolution Mediation by clicking HERE or calling 317-793-0825. We look forward to serving you. As always, the above is for information only. Seek a divorce professional for guidance in your personal situation.

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People going through divorce often feel like they are stepping off a cliff. They are keenly aware they don’t know what they don’t know. We offer answers in a process that protects people, preserves assets, and provides a way forward. 

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